Six teens are counting down to July 12, when they leave for Minamisoma, Japan, to represent Pendleton High School and the city of Pendleton as student ambassadors. PHS students representing Pendleton this year are: Connor Remington, Stephanie Petrie, Pierson Pahl, Monika Melendrez, Travis Banister and Jillian Short. The students will be chaperoned by high school drama teacher John Remington.

The students' adventure will take them into Japanese culture and into the lives of a Japanese host family for three weeks.

Minamisoma is a city of close to 72,000 located in Fukushima Prefecture. The city was founded on Jan. 1, 2006, by merging Haramachi, Odaka and Kashima. Minamisoma is on the east coast of Japan, approximately 150 miles north of Tokyo, and faces the Pacific Ocean.

PHS students apply by completing an application with essay questions, and are then interviewed and chosen by a committee from the Pendleton Cultural Foundation. The Pendleton Cultural Foundation is a non-profit organization that primarily supports this activity. The genesis of this experience is with the sister city relationship that Pendleton has with the former Japanese city of Haramachi. This is the 10th year of the cultural exchange and the 11th year of the sister city relationship.

During the Pendleton Round-Up a contingent of Japanese students reciprocate the exchange and are housed with families in Pendleton. Many will stay with the families of the Pendleton students that traveled to Japan.

Although the Pendleton Cultural Foundation is the sponsor, the kids work to raise funds to pay for their tickets and the reverse exchange expenses in September.

The students have been heavily involved in fundraising.

"Community support has been nothing short of fantastic," said Mike Short, a parent of one of the exchange students.

The students also are busy collecting gift items that will be exchanged during the trip. Their Japanese hosts appreciate anything "American" or "western" such as small packets of ground coffee, souvenir items, caps, pens and Round-Up merchandise. Students literally will carry one bag of luggage and another bag full of gifts.

Japanese families often have more than one generation living in the same house, and the experience of hosting an American student is much relished. Families in Minamisoma sign up years in advance for the opportunity to host a student.

- SN

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